The party was a lot. Too hot, too loud, too close, too many eyes—just too much. He’d ducked out at the first opportunity, and no one had noticed.
Now he’s sitting on a bench outside of Quantico. It’s not well-hidden at all—you can see him plain as day if you’re looking, but he doesn’t expect that anyone will disturb him. The party’s in full swing by now, and it’s not late enough that anyone’s going to try to leave any time soon. The distant sound of music and chatter filters out through the windows.
He’ll have to make an appearance again at some point. He’ll need to mingle, rub shoulders with the people Jack wants to show him off to. Try not to say anything that will get him or anyone else fired.
For now he kicks his shoe against the pebbles underfoot and looks up at the moon. Thinks about going back inside to take advantage of the bar. He hasn’t been alone for more than ten minutes when a shadow falls over his face. He doesn’t need to look up to know who it is. He would know that cologne anywhere. Hannibal’s the only person he knows who wears it.
“Shouldn’t you be inside?” Hannibal asks.
Will turns toward the sound of his voice and sees Hannibal holding a bottle of what might be champagne. It’s hard to tell in the low light, but it’s definitely alcohol and definitely property of the Bureau. Will’s lips curl up, and it’s the first smile that hasn’t looked like a grimace all night.
“Shouldn’t you?” He nods toward the bottle in Hannibal’s hand. “Tell you what, you don’t tell anyone that I’m out here, and I won’t tell anyone that you stole that. Deal?”
Hannibal sniffs. “I’d hardly call it stealing. Consider it a peace offering.”
“Hannibal Lecter, petty thief.”
“Will, please,” Hannibal says, but he’s smiling too.
Will budges over on the bench to make room, and Hannibal takes a seat beside him. He offers Will the bottle of liquor, already uncorked with a few inches of liquid missing, and Will considers it for a moment before taking a swig. What the hell. This probably isn’t the smartest thing he’s done all night, but it probably won’t turn out to be the worst either.
It’s effervescent—champagne after all—and some of the bubbles go up Will’s nose, making him sputter and cough in a way that’s not at all charming.
Hannibal seems charmed anyway, extending a hand to thump Will on the back until he catches his breath.
Will hands the bottle back, and Hannibal takes a drink himself.
Something about the incongruity of the situation—him and prim, proper Hannibal drinking filched liquor behind the Quantico building like a couple of teenagers on prom night—shakes something loose in Will. He relaxes for the first time since he set foot on FBI property.
“God, I haven’t done this in ages,” he says, leaning back to stretch his legs.
Hannibal raises one pale brow. “Gotten drunk with your psychiatrist when you should be at a work function?”
Will accepts the bottle back. Uses it to gesture at the building next to them. “Technically, I’m still at a work function. And is that what we’re doing, Doctor Lecter? Getting drunk?”
“It’s my intention.” He peers at the bottle in Will’s hand. “If it isn’t yours, you might want to stop now.”
Will laughs. “We’re not all lightweights, Doctor Lecter. Some of us abuse our livers on a more consistent basis.”
Hannibal hums. “Alcohol, the terribly uninteresting refuge of self-medicators and the chronically neurotic. I didn’t take you for an alcoholic, Will.”
“I’m a drinker, not an alcoholic,” Will says, although the long pull he takes from the green glass bottle seems to belie the point. “Runs in my family, though.”
He’s feeling fizzy and buoyant in his skin, and maybe that’s why it bubbles to the surface so easily—old hurts that have lost their sting, that have had all their sharp edges blunted through the distance of time. Certainly nothing hurts tonight, not when the air is so mild and fine. Not when he’s sitting here loose-limbed and comfortable, listening to cicadas chirp. The company he’s keeping is part of it; he knows that.
“Your father,” Hannibal says, and Will grunts his assent.
“And his father before him. A long line of fucked up Graham men.”
Hannibal studies him in the poor phosphorescent lighting. His gaze still looks sharp and keen, despite the fact that they’ve nearly killed the bottle between them now. He looks, and Will lets him.
“You’re regimented about it,” Hannibal says at last. “Your alcohol consumption. You allow yourself a certain amount each night and no more—you attempt to mitigate harm by ensuring you can’t escalate. You still do considerable damage to your liver, but you remain in control, and that’s what matters. That’s what separates you from your father—sets you apart and makes you better than he is.”
There’s really no sense in denying it. That’s not what his relationship with Hannibal is built on anyway—not on half-truths and concealment, but on dragging things out into the unflinching light.
“Got it in one,” Will says.
Hannibal doesn’t gloat. He wouldn’t; he never does. That’s not what they’re about either. If it was, they wouldn’t be here now.
He does offer Will the bottle of champagne again. There are dregs left in the bottle, a few sips maybe, and Will shakes his head. The liquor in his belly hasn’t quite soured, but he’s suddenly had enough.
They sit in silence. A woman walks to the parking lot along the paved path, tottering unevenly on high-heeled shoes. She unlocks her car door with a cheery beep of her remote control and digs around inside the backseat, heedless of the way her dress rides up. She pulls her heels off and exchanges them for flats, smooths her hair down and locks the car behind her. She doesn’t see them, hidden as they are in the building’s shadow.
They watch until she’s out of sight, and Will thinks that he should probably get up, that he should probably go back inside, when Hannibal finally speaks.
“The first time I got drunk was at one of my aunt’s parties. We lived in Paris, and it isn’t uncommon there for older children to be given a small portion of wine with dinner. In general, it leads to much more temperate drinking than does the cultural norm of abstention until age twenty-one.” He shakes his head. “But I hadn’t grown up in Paris, you see. She threw a beautiful Christmas party—she always did, every year. There were wreaths and lights, garlands hanging from the bannisters.
“There was also ice wine. It’s delicious, you know. Made from the concentrated flavors of frozen grapes, sweet and rich. I had—” he chuckles in a self-deprecating way that Will somehow just knows is wholly for show. “—entirely too much of it.”
“Did you throw up?” Will asks, thinking of his own earliest experimentations with alcohol. Nothing nearly as refined as the picture Hannibal paints in his mind’s eye. Just his dad’s unattended beer cans, whenever Bill Graham Sr. passed out first, which was often. The first time he’d drank enough to make himself sick, he’d gotten whipped for it the next day.
Hannibal shakes his head. “Nothing so exciting, I’m afraid.” He quirks Will a wry smile. “I fell asleep in the coat closet.”
Will can’t help but smile back, thinking of a young Hannibal—normally arrogant and aristocratic; terrible, probably—face softened in sleep as he drooled onto some poor guest’s winter coat. For some reason the version of Hannibal his mind conjures still wears a waistcoat—was probably wearing a waistcoat even when he was born, and the thought makes Will giggle.
Hannibal chuckles, and their eyes meet. The moment stretches between them, fragile and fleeting.